The latest Regional COMMIT Task Force (TF) and Senior Officials Meeting (SOM 11) took place in Vientiane, Lao PDR on 23 and 24 November 2016.
The meeting brought together the leadership of the national TFs from each of the 6 COMMIT members (Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam), UN-ACT as the COMMIT Secretariat, other UN agencies and international organizations such as ASEAN, the diplomatic community and donor agencies including Norway and Sweden as UN-ACT’s key contributors, civil society stakeholders and the COMMIT Youth Forum as well as private sector actors.
On the agenda were COMMIT sustainability and capacity development; victim identification and referral mechanisms; engagement with youth, civil society, ASEAN and the private sector; monitoring and reporting progress of SPAIV implementation; and 2017 work planning.
Key outcomes included the adoption of the common ASEAN-COMMIT indicators of human trafficking and related forms of exploitation as well as the COMMIT Guidelines on Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms. Both are designed to help significantly improve victim identification in the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) and ensure that those identified receive adequate support services. The next step will be to localize and operationalize the indicators and guidelines in national contexts.
In another major decision, the COMMIT governments unanimously agreed to make strengthening labour migration systems in the GMS a priority for interventions in 2017, thereby recognizing the fundamental connectedness between human trafficking and labour migration, especially in Southeast Asia.
The government delegates also decided to introduce an annually rotating COMMIT Chair, to be performed by the country hosting the SOM and working alongside UN-ACT to represent COMMIT externally whilst giving guidance and direction internally. This will help strengthen governmental ownership over COMMIT in the interest of the Process’ long-term sustainability.
With the end of 2016 approaching, those involved in the COMMIT Process will now proceed with work planning for 2017, based on the decision points reached at the Vientiane meeting. UN-ACT is looking forward to supporting the Process in implementing the various important agreements reached.
Non-governmental, United Nations and academic stakeholders from across Southeast and East Asia came together for an action-packed day focused around counter-trafficking in Bangkok on 30 September.
The program kicked off with a half-day workshop on applying a Communication for Development (C4D) approach to human trafficking prevention interventions, facilitated by our partners from IOM X.
In the afternoon, IOM X and UN-ACT co-chaired the quarterly Regional Network Meeting, this time with a thematic focus on ‘Shifting attitudes as part of a comprehensive behaviour change approach to counter-trafficking’. The panel discussion saw initial presentations from the ILO, Love Frankie and Rapid Asia, and highlighted the importance of time, inclusivity and a culturally adopted approach in bringing about changes to behaviour.
A session on programming updates allowed partners to present to each other their last quarter of implementation as well as plans going forward, with a particular focus on identifying synergies and opportunities for collaborations between those present.
Finally, discussions on ‘latest trends and developments in human trafficking’ raised advocacy efforts, or the lack thereof, for the ratification of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children as well as support for the preparations towards implementation. The group also discussed the nexus between sex work and human trafficking, with a special focus on the notion of ‘consent’ and the complexities around that.
The day ended at the launch of the latest issue of the After Trafficking Review on ‘Trafficking Representations’ at the FCCT in Bangkok. The GAATW-supported publication scrutinizes the often simplistic solutions to a complex phenomenon, as presented by the media, policymakers and humanitarian debates, without challenging the structural and causal factors of inequality underpinning human trafficking.
Around 40 participants from a variety of different organizations attended the Regional Network Meeting – some from Cambodia, Myanmar, Hong Kong, or even the United States – suggesting a growing interest in the forum that seeks to ensure a more coordinated and collaborative response to human trafficking across the region.
If you are working on human trafficking-related issues from a regional perspective in Southeast/East Asia and you would like to attend the Regional Network Meeting, don’t hesitate to drop us a note at email@example.com.
Governmental and non-governmental stakeholders from all 6 COMMIT member states, i.e. Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam, have come together in Bangkok, Thailand for a 2-day workshop titled COMMIT Victim Identification and Referral Mechanisms: Developing Common Guidelines on 25 and 26 October.
The accurate and timely identification of victims of trafficking and the provision of needed support services are vital to counter-trafficking efforts. The COMMIT Governments have identified this as a key issue, and improving victim identification and protection services through referral mechanisms as a key objective to their multilateral and bilateral collaboration.
These frameworks have impacts across counter-trafficking efforts including: the ability of victims to be recognized and provided with effective support; the interest of victims in being formally identified; the possibility for law enforcement to gain evidence against traffickers; the ability to gather data on vulnerabilities to trafficking in persons; and to accurately understand the prevalence and forms of trafficking in persons.
Under the COMMIT Sub-regional Plan of Action IV (SPA IV: 2015-18), the Governments have agreed to the following outcomes and outputs in the area of victim protection:
Outcome 4.1: Victims of Trafficking are Identified
Outcome 4.2: Victims of trafficking in persons receive appropriate protection and rights-based assistance
At the regional COMMIT Taskforce meeting in February 2016, the 6 Governments agreed that victim identification frameworks and referral mechanisms were a priority for the COMMIT Process.
This follows the agreement of joint victim identification indicators at an ASEAN-COMMIT workshop in Malaysia in December 2015, the first formal initiative between ASEAN and COMMIT. The victim identification indicators are the first step in helping first responders to trafficking in persons identify more possible victims of trafficking who may then be referred to the relevant authority for initial assistance and ultimately formal identification purposes.
As a result of these developments, the Lao Government has proposed that the COMMIT Senior Officials Meeting 11 (SOM11) to be hosted in Lao PDR on 24 November 2016 focus on victim identification and referral mechanisms. Preparation for this will draw together the COMMIT governments’ experiences and commitments on this issue, and engage in consultations to develop agreed guidelines for COMMIT countries.
Recognising that policy developments and guidelines require commitment to implement, it is also intended that implementation indicators are developed to review progress against the objectives set.
The goal of the 2-day workshop is hence to develop such common COMMIT guidelines and indicators on victim identification and referral mechanisms for implementation under the COMMIT SPAIV, to be endorsed by the SOM11 in Lao PDR in November 2016.
We have published the latest blog, ‘How the lack of protection for persons displaced by climate change increases their vulnerability to exploitation and human trafficking’.
In this piece, Jenna Klein, J.D. Candidate at the School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, discusses the shortcomings in the current international legal framework in providing protection to the increasing number of people displaced by the effects of climate change, and analyzes how these leave such populations more vulnerable to exploitation and human trafficking.
You can access the blog by visiting our forum or clicking on this link.
What do you think about the blog? And what are your thoughts on the nexus between climate change and human trafficking?
We would be happy to hear from you! You can comment directly in response to our blog!…
Click on UN-ACT Quarter 3 2016 Newsletter for all the latest information on human trafficking in the Greater Mekong Sub-region. For an email-based version of the newsletter that is easier to manage and comes with an improved layout, please subscribe to our mailing list at the bottom of the website.…
UN-ACT is pleased to release its new research report, Human Trafficking Vulnerabilities: A Study on Forced Marriage between Cambodia and China. The study primarily draws on the accounts of 42 Cambodian women who experienced conditions of forced marriage in China, with interviews having taken place in both countries. Key informants from government and non-government stakeholders in Cambodia and China were consulted as well.
The report analyzes recruitment, brokering, transportation and exploitation patterns as well the links between these; determines service needs among Cambodians trafficked to China for forced marriage, in China, during the repatriation process and upon return to Cambodia; and identifies opportunities for interventions to prevent forced marriages from occurring and to extend protective services to those in need, at both policy and programming levels.
Whilst anecdotal evidence suggests that some, perhaps many, of the Cambodian women living in arranged marriages in China appear content in their situations, the research project was conducted in response to the increasing number of identified cases of forced marriage between the two countries.
In Cambodia, a lack of jobs and low wages result in many young women looking for opportunities outside their home country. In China, an unusually high gender imbalance derived primarily from more than 30 years of one-child policy coupled with gender selection due to son preferences creates a demand for women in marriageable age. There are hence significant push- and pull-factors for marriage migration between the two countries, however both sides prohibit international marriage brokerage and thus force potential migrants to enlist the services of irregular agents operating without transparency and oversight.
The downsides of such lack of control over brokers are well-documented in the report. Respondents were both deceived and coerced into marriage by agents to varying degrees. Some came to China for the purpose of work and only later found out that they had to get married instead. Others were told that they needed to get married in order to find work in China, which is inaccurate as marriage doesn’t grant employment opportunities for foreigners in China for a minimum of 5 years. Further, the conditions of marriage proved to be significantly different to what was originally discussed.
Confiscated passports; withheld food; restricted communication and freedom of movement; and threats of having to repay travel costs to China ranging from around US$2,000 – $8,000 all served to coerce women into marriages with Chinese men. These factors were compounded by their visa status, in that respondents had typically and unknowingly entered China on tourist visas with a validity of 1 month and only found out after their arrival that marriage was the only opportunity for longer-term stays.
It is hence a key recommendation to the two countries to establish regular, well-monitored migration channels including for marriage. Given strong and persistent push- and pull-factors, current restrictions only serve to make migrants who continue to move to China for marriage purposes more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
Published by UN-ACT with support from Ratanak International and the Governments of Australia, Norway and Sweden, the report is intended to assist the countries involved in the Coordinated Mekong Ministerial Initiative Against Trafficking (COMMIT: Cambodia, China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam) to more effectively counter human trafficking.…
We have published the latest blog, ‘Human Trafficking in Thai Criminal Law – A Crime against the State or a Crime against the Person?’
In this piece, Thomas Harré, PhD Candidate at the School of Law, University of Melbourne, analyzes the approach to the crime of human trafficking in Thai criminal law, and discusses the merits of viewing it as a crime against the state as done by some courts.
You can access the blog by visiting our forum or clicking on this link.
What do you think about the blog? And what are your thoughts on whether human trafficking constitutes a crime against the person or a crime against the state?
We would be happy to hear from you! You can comment directly in response to our blog!…
The Thai Public Broadcasting Service, Thai PBS, has produced a 30-minute documentary on human trafficking in Nepal following the 2015 earthquake. The film also touches upon broader patterns of forced exploitation across Asia including vulnerabilities thereto, which UN-ACT provided an interview on. The full video can be found here, with UN-ACT’s contributions featuring at 6:53 min, 8:27 min and 19:42 min. Enjoy watching!…
UN-ACT is pleased to launch the 2015 Annual Report, illustrating our progress across all Output areas; outlining case studies from the countries which we work in; and discussing cross-cutting issues including human rights and gender, constraints in implementation as well as the way forward for 2016 and beyond.
Here some highlights on UN-ACT implementation and impact in 2015:
1) 2911 trafficking survivors were referred and supported through national and transnational mechanisms across all 6 Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries, which is a 16% increase compared to 2014 and may be indicative of improved victim identification and referral mechanisms both within and between GMS countries;
2) 6 major legal and policy improvements occurred in 2015, ranging from a revised penal code in Viet Nam incorporating men being forcibly exploited as cases of human trafficking; and strengthened M&E procedures in Cambodia for the implementation of minimum standards in victim protection; to the adopted anti-human trafficking law in Lao PDR, the first of its kind in the country;
3) The COMMIT Process has continued to strengthen by functioning more effectively and by becoming more transparent, accountable and inclusive. During the 10th Senior Officials Meeting (SOM10)/4th Inter Ministerial Meeting (IMM4) held in Cambodia in 2015, civil society stakeholders participated side-by-side government representatives, presenting their challenges, lessons learnt and recommendations for strengthened cooperation going forward;
4) Collaboration between ASEAN and COMMIT progressed significantly in 2015 through the joint development of common indicators of human trafficking and related forms of exploitation, co-sponsored by UN-ACT. These will enable frontline responders to identify potential victims of human trafficking, prior to more specialized screenings to determine their status. The indicators are expected to be endorsed by the ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) and the COMMIT SOM in 2016 before localization and operationalization in national contexts;
5) Research examining the experiences of Lao migrant workers who used recruitment agencies to obtain jobs in Thailand was conducted in 2015, with a final report expected to be published in mid-2016. The project is designed to inform the further development of regular labour migration mechanisms between the two countries, preventing abuse and exploitation as well as assisting those in need. Further, in response to increasing numbers of identified forced marriage cases between Cambodia and China, UN-ACT initiated a research project to identify vulnerability factors for this trafficking pattern as well as opportunities for protection interventions. A final report is set to be launched in 2016 as well.
6) In preparation for the civil society session at SOM10/IMM4, relevant CSOs and NGOs from across the sub-region, with support from UN-ACT, established the Civil Society Platform (CSP) to COMMIT, and convened the CSP nationally and regionally to develop common positions and messages, which their selected representatives presented at the meeting. All GMS countries have since begun to engage civil society more regularly as reflected in 149 CSOs participating in national and regional COMMIT events in 2015, compared to 80 in 2014.
Enjoy reading the full report, and we look forward to the years ahead working in partnership with key anti-trafficking stakeholders in the GMS and beyond to effectively counter human trafficking in the sub-region.…
All over the world, tens of millions of people are desperately seeking refuge, many of them far from home and even farther from safety. Migrants and refugees face imposing physical obstacles and bureaucratic barriers. Sadly, they are also vulnerable to human rights violations and exploitation by human traffickers.
Human traffickers prey on the most desperate and vulnerable. To end this inhumane practice, we must do more to shield migrants and refugees — and particularly young people, women and children – from those who would exploit their yearnings for a better, safer and more dignified future. We must govern migration in a safe and rights-based way, create sufficient and accessible pathways for the entry of migrants and refugees, and ultimately tackle the root causes of the conflicts – extreme poverty, environmental degradation and other crises which force people across borders, seas and deserts.
These issues will be central to the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants, to be held in New York on 19 September 2016. This meeting aims amongst other goals to win renewed commitment for intensified efforts to combat human trafficking and smuggling of migrants and refugees, ensure protection and assistance for the victims of trafficking and of abusive smuggling, as well as all those who suffer human rights violations and abuse in the course of large movements, and promote respect for international law, standards and frameworks.
I call on every nation – whether country of origin, transit or destination – to recognize our shared responsibility. As a first step, we need a strong legal basis for action. I encourage all States to adopt and implement the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its protocol on human trafficking as well as all core international human rights instruments.
On this World Day against Trafficking in Persons, I urge everyone to recommit to protect, respect and fulfill the human rights of all migrants and refugees. Creating and supporting well-governed, safe and human rights-based migration and asylum procedures will be an important step towards ending the abhorrent practice of profiting from human despair and misery.…